Every culture has their own traditions on preserving produce — drying, fermenting, freezing, pickling, curing, canning and jamming. While food preservation may have originated for sustenance and religious or celebratory purposes, today, it is much more about keeping the treasured family recipes and craftsmanship alive. In a world of commercialisation, it’s also trusting to know that if you make it yourself, you’re aware of exactly what’s in it.
A new book by Rita Erlich (she has written and edited numerous cooking books and was co-editor of The Age Good Food Guide for 15 years) titled The Makers documents some of Melbourne’s original garagistas, who’ve been turning backyards and gardens into hidden kitchens for making cheeses, passata, vinegar and wine, beer and more.
There’s an obvious love for Italian food in Australia so it was interesting to learn that Italians are the largest non-English-speaking immigrant group in Australia (according to the 2006 census figures). While we all may have our own special versions of Spaghetti Bolognese, those of us without access to an Italian family may have never questioned the origins of passata. For a few years now, I’ve heard about these great passata-making weekends where generations of families come together to produce a year’s worth of passata. The detailed descriptions and photographs throughout the book really brought me to their table.
The book not only features these recipes but it also shares the tales of the artisans, their journey to learn more about the processes to improve on what has been done, and the impact they have on the community and family.
Their tremendous sense of pleasure and satisfaction is infectious and I found myself yearning to take action. While I’m not planning to make my own salami or vinegar any time soon, the book gave me a new-found appreciation for these ingredients and I’m definitely keen to explore the age old traditions of making my own passata and preserving my own olives! The publishers of The Makers have kindly given me permission to share with you the passata recipe so you join my passata adventure too!
The Makers is available for $29.95 from homemakeit.com.au and at The Craft & Co (390 Smith St, Collingwood VIC).
- 1 box of tomatoes (approximately 10 kg)
- olive oil
- 4 large bunches of basil,
- finely chopped
- 8 brown onions, diced
- large container to hold
- the chopped tomatoes
- several large pots
- puree machine
- 12 glass bottles
- bottle caps
- bottle capper
- gloves, for handling the heat during the bottling process
- Day One
- Rinse and cut the tomatoes in half, removing bruised or damaged parts.
- Lightly squeeze the tomato halves by hand, then place in a large container. Sprinkle generously with salt and leave overnight in a cool, dry place.
- Day Two
- Drain the juice from tomatoes through a colander (if you leave the tomatoes overnight in boxes with holes, the juice will drain off).
- Divide a quarter of the tomatoes between several large pots and drizzle in some olive oil. Bring to the boil.
- Once boiling, add the rest of the tomatoes and the onion and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Take off the heat and put the mix through a puree machine, which separates the skins and seeds from the juice.
- Return the puree to the pots and add the basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
- While the puree is simmering, sterilise 12 glass bottles
- Ladle the passata into the bottles using a funnel and heat-resistant gloves.
- Once all the passata has been ladled out, cap the bottles and lie them in a solid container, close together. Cover with a heavy blanket and leave in a dark, dry place.
- Proper sterilisation of bottles and equipment used in any foods meant for long-term storage is vital. Boil the glass bottles or jars to sterilse them - make sure they are completely dry before using them. Alternatively, wash them in hot soapy water and rinse well with more hot water. Dry them upside down in an oven preheated to 110°C for around 15 minutes. You can also use a sterilising solution made with sodium metabisulfite to sanitise other equipment you’re going to use for making lots of the things in this book. If improper sanitation is practised, you risk unwanted bacteria spoiling your efforts, so it really is worth taking all the necessary precautions to prevent this. You’ll know that your food has spoiled if it looks or smells bad or wrong. If this happens, discard it and try, try again!